OPES Acquisition history of the Oslo Papyrus Collection

The initiative to a papyrus collection in Oslo was taken by professor Samson Eitrem, who went to Egypt in 1910 and acquired 11 papyrus fragments and 5 ostraca for his private collection. These items were later (in the 1930s) donated to the Oslo collection. The First World War put a temporary end to Eitrem´s plans for a papyrus collection in Oslo, and not until 1920 was he able to make a second trip to Egypt. This time he had raised funds from various sources (The University Jubilee Fund, The Nansen Fund) for the acquisition of papyri for the University of Oslo, to be housed in the University Library. The 1920 purchases, from antiquity dealers and natives in Cairo and Fayûm, numbered 483 papyri[1], mostly fragments, but among them was also the roll of magical texts with illustrations, in 1925 published as P. Oslo 1. The majority of these papyri came from Theadelpheia (Batn Harît) and Karanis (Kôm Ushim).

In 1923 a joint purchase was made together with the British Museum and the Michigan and Columbia universities. To our library were allotted 75 numbers (inv. 434-539)[2], all dated from the Roman period, and the origin of the majority was Fayûm (Karanis and Theadelpheia).

A new joint purchase together with the same institutions and the university of Princeton was made in 1928. The share of Oslo was this time 27 pieces (inv.540-569)[3]. The price paid was E£ 24. (Inv.540-563 bought from natives of Behnasa 28.3.1928; inv. 564-568 bought from Muhammad Abdullah (Fayûm); inv. 569 bought in Fayûm.)

L. Amundsen acquired various collections during his stay in Egypt 1927-1929, when he participated in the University of Michigan excavation in Karanis. (inv. 570 = P. Oslo 15 purchased from Ali Mahmud, Behnasa, April 25, 1928; inv. 571- 655 purchased likewise from Ali Mahmud, Behnasa, April 5, 1928 for price E£ 44; inv. 656-686 purchased from R. H. Blanchard, Schâri Kâmil, Cairo, Jan. 5, 1928 for E£ 2.50; two Greek ostraca (inv. 750-751) bought from Nahman Jan. 14, 1928; inv.752-760 and 762-773 ostraca purchased from M. Nahman March 27, 1928 for E£ 5; inv. 761 (an ostracon), gift from Ali Mahmud, Behnasa, April 25, 1928. Inv.774-1012 two boxes of papyri, both from Oxyrhynchus, purchased from Ali Mahmud, Derballah (Behnasa) at Beni Masas, Jan. 27, 1929 - box I 774-862, box II: 863-1012. Total price E£ 60. Inv. 1013-1411 papyri purchased from M. Nahman, Cairo, Febr. 18, 1929 for E£ 250. Nos 1016-1411 presumably comprise an archive from Tebtunis, to this M. Nahman added nos 1013-1015 at the request of the purchaser.

On April 24, 1933 a papyrus (inv. 1412) was sent to Prof. Eitrem with the regards of Soliman Salouma, Dragoman, through Constance Knudsen, Arendal.

Inv. 1413-1436: papyri purchased from prof. Carl Schmidt, Berlin. Sept.12./Oct.26, 1933 for the price of 500 R.M.. Of these the most prestigious is inv. 1413, containing fragments of unknown Greek tragical texts with musical notations.

In 1934 a group of papyri were purchased for the sum of 20.000 fr. from Maurice Nahman, Cairo, sent by him to Oslo, where they were received Sept.19. (inv. 1437-1503)[4].

In March,1936 prof. Eitrem was in Egypt and acquired various collections of papyri: Inv. 1504-1519: a folder of papyri purchased from Maurice Nahman, Cairo - one group from Ptolemaic times, another from Soknopaiou Nesos A.D. 96-189, plus some stray papyri from Oxyrhynchus. Inv. 1520-1600 a collection of papyrus fragments from Oxyrhynchus (and Oxyrhynchite villages), dating from Ist century A.D. down to late Byzantine time. Inv. 1601-1605: a folder of papyri, Oxyrhynchus, IInd-VIth century A.D. Seems to belong to the same lot as inv. 1520-1600. Inv. 1606-1647: a parcel marked Fayûm. The documents themselves, however, which date from the Ist century B.C. to the VIth or VIIth A.D., show that the lot comes from Oxyrhynchus. Inv. 1648-1651: a small group of papyri purchased as one lot (IInd century A.D. - 441 A.D.). Antinooupolis mentioned in one of the texts. Inv. 1652: mummy wrapping with inscription.

Inv. 1653-1661 is a collection of papyrus fragments given to the University Library by the widow of the late dr. A. Fonahn. On one of the envelopes dr. Fonahn has written in Norwegian: "From the collection of prof. Lieblein, Sept. 9, 1933. Originally given to (or bought by?) The Ethnographic Museum of the University. Prof. Solberg asked me if I wanted these small fragments, as the Museum had no use for them". Fonahn died Aug. 21, 1940.

Inv. 1662 (a commentary on the Troades of Euripides) was part of Prof. Eitrem´s private collection acquired in 1910. Published by Amundsen/Eitrem in 1956.

The lot inv. 1663-1668 was purchased by prof. H. Ludin Janssen from Nahman junior, Cairo, Jan. 1954.

Inv. 1669-1675 have just been sketchily inventoried, the rest (1676-2272) have just been given inventory numbers.



[1] As to the number of papyri purchased in 1920: 483 items are inventoried as bought in 1920 (inv.1-420, 687-749), but see L. Amundsen´s report in Chr. d´Eg. 7 (1932) 328-331: "This purchase of 1920 consists of 392 pieces (including fragments)".

[2] The "75 numbers" are inventoried as 106 items - how does that tally? The price of this batch was £ 240. See also the reports and the inventory list written by H.I.Bell.

[3] Again the inventoried numbers do not correspond to the numbers of pieces registered as our lot. See report and list written by H.I.Bell.

[4] This lot actually belongs to Institutt for sammenlignende kulturforskning, Oslo.